Built in the 13th century by the Chiaramonte family, the Favara castle is of particular interest because it represents the transitional phase between castle and palace. The Palace, as it is in fact commonly called because of the square arrangement of its various parts, recalls the typical lay-out of the Swabian castles that sprang up in eastern Sicily and may be compared with the palacia or solacia built by King Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250) in Sicily and Puglia some 50 years before. The building's partial use as a residence not in any case intended strictly for military purposes is reflected in its not particularly dominating position.
The first order of the Palace is compact in appearance, while the second order is cut through by two-light windows, some of which were replaced in the Renaissance by architraved windows.
The rooms on the ground floor of the castle, once used as storehouses, stables, and servants' living quarters, have barrel vaults; they all open onto the courtyard, with ogival doors and various 16th-, 18th-, and 19th-cent. additions, getting their light through narrow loopholes.
In the entrance hallway there is a stone bearing a mysterious, indecipherable inscription that according to local tradition proclaims the whereabouts of a hidden treasure.
Of particular interest are the chapel and the portal, which is flanked on either side by two little columns and a marble frieze decorated with a basso-relievo and winged cupids.
The motifs of the decorations are clearly echoes of the Norman age: in particular, the shafts of the columns and the chapters recall those of the Cloister of Monreale.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.